We are currently in Winter’s hometown of Kassel, Germany. This town has many charms, not least of which is this castle on the hill. This castle is called the Lowenburg, which means the Lion’s Castle, and it is but one of the many gems in the Wilhelmshoehe Park.
You might think Kassel is named for this castle, but in fact, the Lowenburg is not as old as it looks. It was built by the landgrave Wilhelm IX at the end of the 18th century. It was modeled after a medieval castle, but is not nearly as old as Kassel itself. The city’s name is derived from the ancient Castellum Cattorum, a castle of the Chatti, a German tribe that had lived in the area since Roman times.
Kassel is an extremely green city, filled with numerous parks, footpaths, cobbled streets, and plazas where cars don’t go, making this a very friendly place to walk. There is also, in typical German fashion, one of the most efficient street train networks I have ever experienced. I have often wondered how Winter’s parents get by without a car, especially as they get older. Turns out, the answer is “Quite easily”.
Within a block of their home they can walk to a kiosk and buy a fuenferkarte, a 5-pack of tram tickets, and then catch the tram right across the street to any number of places in the city, including the castle.
Kassel has a number of neighborhood markets, so many that you are only ever within a stone’s throw of fresh bread, meat, cheeses, eggs, fruits and vegetables. The food we have gotten from these markets has all been remarkably delicious, fresh, and of outstanding quality. Growth hormones are banned here in Germany, and the standards for meat production are quite high. I find that I feel more ease in general about trusting the food I purchase here.
I also appreciate how clean everything is! You can run your hands along a stair railing or public door handle and there is no grime. Fine craftsmanship can be found just about everywhere, from door handles to wooden furniture to shower heads. German engineering, baby! It’s a thing.
Speaking of German cliche’s, sausages are quite popular indeed. They are served for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. They are given as gifts. They are as ubiquitous as the beer gardens that pepper virtually every street corner.
Today we had delicious home made ice cream in an artful little shop owned by a charming Algerian man with warm soulful eyes and a radiant smile. He knew Winter through music, and has apparently worked closely with Peter Gabriel in the world music scene.
Winter’s hometown is the home of the Brothers Grimm, and we visited their museum yesterday. In truth, I expected more. It was mostly a collection of art – some quite good – based on the faerietales, plus some furniture from their home. I suppose I was expecting more along the lines of full on installations that brought the tales to life, and more about the people they collected from. I still enjoyed it though, and for 3 Euros who can complain?
I adore the old world brick and stone buildings here, with their stories etched in their very stones, revealing an ethic of pride in craftsmanship. This is something that has largely been lost from the world; even here in Germany you can find the plastic, the modern, the superficial. But these things are mingled with history and old world charm in ways that are harder to find in America, particularly on the west coast. As someone who finds great sustenance in beauty, I can easily see that convalescence in this hospital surrounded by trees would facilitate healing quite naturally!
One thing we have both been struck by is how safe it feels here. America has been feeling like a tinder box for some time now, a constant civil unrest ready to burst into flame at a moment’s notice. Germany has certainly had its share of turmoil, but for the time being, it feels at peace with itself. It has been a welcome relief!
Tuesday morning we take the train for 12 hours to Cinque Terre, Italy, a group of 5 medieval villages nestled amidst the cliffs along the Mediterranean sea. I will unplug entirely for this, and allow myself to fully soak in the beauty of land and sea. We all must find ways to replenish ourselves with renewed grace, and this immersion in the naturally world is what fills my cup more than anything else.
When I am back at the computer again in a few weeks, I will share some gems from the Five Lands! Until then, kiss your sweethearts and breath in the fresh air!